Elegant brocades, fine damasks and velvets, delicate batistes and organzas, and the most exquisite lace conjure up visions of the fashion and majesty of a different era.
You may catch a glimpse of many of these rarer types of fabric and textiles in Delectable Mountain Cloth in Brattleboro, where owner Jan Norris has created a shop, open since 1978, that can be described as a work of art in itself, and is an oasis for those who cherish and seek out inspiration in a beautiful piece of fabric.
Jan explains the impulse to open her shop by saying, “It always seems to boil down to trying to make available to people extraordinary pieces—there’s so much that’s mediocre, such an abundance of ordinary stuff.”
Her own fashion journey started in the late ’60s, when she used dyeing and batik techniques and made clothes. The store came about when she discovered she could not find many of the fabrics and colors she was looking for, while working with New England quilts.
“What I was trying to do was not just New England pieces but merge Italian Renaissance and early American prints from clothing that people wore and shirtings and suitings. The fabric of everyday life at that time was really gorgeous, just gorgeous.”
The shop started off with just 25 pieces, that she put together from Boston and New York shows. Her enthusiasm for beautiful fabrics of the past has led her to travel to India, Thailand, and Europe as well as to expos, trade shows, and markets in the U.S., looking for the rare and fabulous. Every single piece in her store is selected with a discerning eye. The result is a form of theatre, a veritable tableau of riches, an art form that anyone can walk into and see and touch—and even purchase to create their own marvel.
The shop is full of not only cloth, but thousands of buttons, all displayed in tiny crystal dishes, artisan-crafted costume jewelry, shawls, and scarves. Multitudes have passed through, whether shopping, browsing, exploring, consulting about a project, or searching for a specific rare textile that they have been unable to find elsewhere.